Taking the bus to explore Costa Rica on a budget is easy and can be fun and a true adventure, once you get used to the older vehicles and flexible travel schedules. Costa Rica buses are plentiful and cheap, and even better most have front door service to major hotels.
Costa Rica buses fall into one of two categories: local buses, which tend to be the most dilapidated but are also the cheapest way to get around Costa Rica cities; and express buses, which are more expensive than local buses but still the cheapest way to travel to major destinations like beaches, attractions, and resorts.
Taking the bus to major destinations in Costa Rica is easy using express buses, and has the added benefit of allowing visitors to enjoy the Costa Rica countryside. Costa Rica express buses are less luxurious than the express buses found in the US, Canada, and Europe. Costa Rica express buses rarely have bathrooms on board, for instance, but then mot Costa Rica destinations are no more than an hour or two from San Jose so it usually is not an issue.
Express buses often leave right from your hotel door, although a few are only available on weekends. Two companies run express lines to most of the major Costa Rica tourist attractions: Gray Line (www.graylinecostarica.com), and Fantasy Tours. These two companies combined make taking the bus to Jaco, Manuel Antonio, Liberia, Playa Hermosa, La Fortuna, Tamarindo, Play Conchal, and Playa Flamingo affordable and easy.
Gray Line and Fantasy tours provide up to ten departures a day from San Jose to these locations for visitors wanting to save money by taking the bus. Fares run between $21 and $38 depending on the destination. Most of the buses are either small vehicles or cozy multi-passenger vans. Daily return express buses make it easy to get back to your hotel in San Juan whenever you want.
A similar option for exploring Costa Rica by taking the bus is a service called Interbus (www.costaricapass.com). Interbus offers a somewhat more extensive map of connecting routes, and a fare structure that runs between $17 and $38 USD. Especially good for students and budget travelers who like spontaneous options for taking the bus from one Costa Rica destination to another, Interbus makes moving around the country as easy as hopping on a bus.
Taking the bus around each of the major cities, especially the capital San Jose, is a better option than some might think. Local buses run frequently, are very inexpensive, and when compared to the cost and the trouble of renting a car and keeping the rental car safe, local buses also provide significant peace of mind. Getting the hang of taking the bus within the city is really not difficult. After a few excursions, you’ll be an old hand.